Our continuing series from Thomas Watson’s The Mystery of the Lord’s Supper
In the manner of the institution; there are four things observable. 1. The taking of the bread. 2. The breaking it. 3. The blessing it. 4. The administering the cup.
The breaking it, continued
Now concerning Christ’s suffering upon the cross, observe these things.
(1.) The bitterness of it to him, “He was broken.” The very thoughts of his suffering put him into an agony; “Being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). He was full of sorrow, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death” (Matt. 26:38). Christ’s crucifixion was
[a.] A lingering death. It was more for Christ to suffer one hour, than for us to have suffered forever; but his death was lengthened out, he hung three hours upon the cross. He died many deaths before he could die one.
[b.] It was a painful death. His hands and feet were nailed, which parts being full of sinews, and therefore very tender, his pain must needs be most acute and sharp. And to have the venomous arrow of God’s wrath shot to his heart, this was the direful catastrophe, and caused that outcry upon the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The justice of God was now inflamed and heightened to its full; “God spared not his Son” (Rom. 8:38). Nothing must be abated of the debt. Christ felt the pains of hell, though not locally, yet equivalently. In the sacrament we see this tragedy acted before us.
[c.] It was a shameful death. Christ was hung between two thieves, Matt. 28:38. As if he had been the principal malefactor. Well might the lamp of heaven withdraw its light, and mask itself with darkness, as blushing to behold the Sun of righteousness in an eclipse. It is hard to say, which was greater – the blood of the cross, or the shame of the cross, Heb. 12:2.
[d.] It was a cursed death, Deut. 21:23. This kind of death was deemed exceedingly execrable, yet the Lord Jesus underwent this; “Being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). He who was “God blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5) was under a curse.
(2.) Also consider the sweetness of it to us. Christ’s bruising is our healing; “By his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). Calvin calls the crucifixion of Christ the hinge on which our salvation turns; and Luther calls it a gospel-spring opened to refresh sinners. Indeed the suffering of Christ is a death-bed cordial, it is an antidote to expel all our fear. Does sin trouble you? Christ has overcome it for us. Besides the two thieves crucified with Christ, there were two other invisible thieves crucified with him, sin and the devil.
3. The third thing in the institution is Christ’s blessing of the bread; “He blessed it.” This was the consecration of the elements. Christ by his blessing sanctified them and made them symbols of his body and blood. Christ’s consecrating of the elements, points out three things:
(1.) Christ, in blessing the elements, opened the nature of the sacrament to the apostles. He explained this mystery. Christ did tell them that as surely as they did receive the elements corporeally, so surely they did receive him into their hearts spiritually.
(2.) Christ’s blessing the elements signified his prayer for a blessing upon the ordinance. He prayed that these symbols of bread and wine, might, through the blessing and operation of the Holy Ghost, sanctify the elect, and seal up all spiritual mercies and privileges to them.
(3.) Christ’s blessing the elements was his giving thanks. So it is in the Greek, “He gave thanks.” Christ gave thanks, that God the Father had in the infinite riches of his grace given his Son to expiate the sins of the world. And if Christ gave thanks, how may we give thanks! If he gave thanks who was to shed his blood, how may we give thanks who are to drink it! Christ also gave thanks that God had given these elements of bread and wine, not only to be signs, but seals of our redemption. As the seal serves to make over a conveyance of land, so the sacrament, as a spiritual seal, serves to make over Christ and heaven to such as worthily receive it.
4. The fourth particular in the institution is Christ’s administering the cup; “And he took the cup.” The taking of the cup showed the redundancy of merit in Christ, and the copiousness of our redemption. Christ was not sparing; he gave not only the bread, but the cup. We may say as the psalmist, “With the Lord is plenteous redemption” (Psa. 103:7). If Christ gave the cup, how dare the papists [Roman Catholics] withhold it? They clip and mutilate the ordinance. They blot out Scripture and may fear that doom, “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life” (Rev. 22:19)
Question. What is meant by Christ’s taking the cup?
Answer. The cup is figurative; it is a metonymy of the subject, the cup is put for the wine in it. By this, Christ signified the shedding of his blood upon the cross; when his blood was poured out, now the vine was cut, and did bleed; now was the lily of the valleys dyed of a purple colour. This was to Christ a cup of astonishment, Ezek. 23:33. But to us it is a cup of salvation. When Christ drank this cup of blood, we may truly say, he drank health to the world. It was precious blood, 1 Pet. 1:19. In this blood we see sin fully punished and fully pardoned. Well may the spouse give Christ of her spiced wine, and the juice of her pomegranate (Song 8:2) when Christ has given her a draught of his warm blood, spiced with his love and perfumed with the Divine nature.